With star solo singers of the Mariinsky Theatre
Tchaikovsky’s rise to fame was no easy path as far as opera was concerned, and the composer suffered many setbacks. He chose to delete two early works himself, and even "Eugene Onegin" experienced a delayed success. Tchaikovsky's last opera, premiered in 1892, also struggled to make its mark. Outside of Russia, "Iolanta" is very rarely performed on opera stages, despite its undeniable musical qualities.
Tchaikovsky's remarkable aptitude for depicting in music the protagonists and their characters is fully highlighted in this magical one-act opera. Princess Iolanta is blind, but her entourage is committed to hiding her this fact. It is only once Count Vaudémont has declared his love for her that she becomes aware of her blindness. The healing powers of a Moorish physician give the story a happy end in which Tchaikovsky expresses his own hope of overcoming social constraints.
External action is reduced to a minimum in "Iolanta". The opera's dramatic weight rests mainly on internal processes and an emotional world full of contradictions and conflicts. To express this panorama of the soul, Tchaikovsky makes use of a subtly differentiated musical language, which often takes on a chamber music quality, from dark woodwind intonations, and tender melodies played on the strings through to regal brass fanfares. Tchaikovsky couldn’t have left a more beautiful operatic legacy than this hymn to love.
Tchaikovsky’s last three symphonies share the obsession of fate as a common denominator and are in fact often regarded as a triptych. Although they are well spaced out over time, these works can be considered as different stagings of the musician’s tormented inner world. Eleven years after having completed of his 4th Symphony, Tchaikovsky began to compose his Symphony in E minor, not without some difficulty. “I must work harder in the future; I want so much to show not only to others, but to myself, that I still haven't expired... I don't know whether I wrote to you that I had decided to write a symphony. At first it was fairly difficult; now inspiration seems to have deserted me completely” he confided to his admirer Nadezhda von Meck in the course of the composition. Tchaikovsky did not attach a programme as such to the piece, but provided a few guidelines in the margin of the first movement: “Total submission before fate, or, what is the same thing, the inscrutable designs of Providence (…) Murmurs, doubts, laments, reproaches against... XXX (…) Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???” Who or what is XXX? Maybe a person, but it is more likely that the composer was referring here to the crucial problem of his homosexuality. The reference to a “complete resignation” seems however to indicate that he had accepted this fact. The first movement opens with the cyclical theme that will further appears throughout the work: a sad and gloomy motive related both to a march and a chorale. The second movement might correspond to the “consolation” and the “ray of light” that Tchaikovsky went on to mention in his annotations, whereas the third movement moves closer to the world of dance, carried by an elegant waltz. In the last movement, the cyclical theme finally shifts into the major mode. Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony was given its first hearing in St. Petersburg on 5 November 1888, with the composer conducting. It was given a warm welcome by the audience, even if the critics seemed more reserved. This work nevertheless bears the imprint of a profound individuality and concludes on the man’s spiritual impotence.
Valery Gergiev is one of the world's most outstanding conductors. In his function of Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, he has helped this 235-year-old prestigious institution to sustain world fame. Gergiev not only brought together a large number of internationally renowned singers on the Mariinsky stage but also initiated an academy for young singers and musicians. Under Valery Gergiev's leadership, the theatre's repertoire expanded to include essential works of the 20th century. Gergiev also conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre the first complete performance of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen in Russia's musical history. This production has also been successfully presented in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Great Britain and the USA (Metropolitan Opera New York). From 1995 to 2008, Valery Gergiev was also Artistic Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2007, he was appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Gergiev has been Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra since 2015 and regularly conducts the Vienna Philharmonic and the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala. He is also the initiator and director of international festivals such as the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival, the “Stars of the White Nights" in St. Petersburg and the Moscow Easter Festival.